Thankful November. For Education.
Public school education was made compulsory throughout America one century ago (plus two years). Pilgrims recognized the worth of an educated citizenship long before the inception of the nation. America’s oldest public school opened in Boston in 1635 (and it’s still open!)
I am proud to be from a country that has always considered learning to be integral to national health and prosperity.
People with the ability to think for themselves cannot easily be tricked into subjection. Horace Mann, an early and persistent federal proponent of education, argued, “A republic cannot long remain ignorant and free.” He, like Thomas Jefferson before him, and many who followed their footsteps after, agreed. Education should be a priority in the nursery of the nation.
And yet, I homeschool.
I’m not against public schools. Quite the contrary. I believe they serve a vital purpose - giving the ability to read, write, and handle math to millions who might not otherwise have access. They teach habits. They encourage order. They enforce the basic tenets of the nation.
But. Somewhere in our aging history, schools have swayed from the three R’s and turned to focus on the three F’s - forms, functions, and feelings.
Forms. Learn to fill out a test booklet at every turn or acceptable schooling is not being provided.
Functions. Establish you place in the pecking order of society. You’ll learn it soon enough in the halls between classes.
Feelings. These have risen to prominence in classrooms in recent years. The explosion of social studies and sex ed, increasing gender demands, and social work and counseling requirements all heat up budget discussions at your local public school.
I have many dear friends who teach in these schools. They have my immense respect and thanks for trying to navigate the constant tension between providing reading, writing, and math instruction in a loving, personal way versus being personality and love instructors in a reading, writing, and math way. I think public schools are getting priorities skewed.
It is precisely because I long for a good public school system that I homeschool (also the fact that I don’t have to pack daily lunches). I have taught 6 children to read and write (well, the 5 year old is close). The older ones can do higher math than I can now. I can totally count chores as required schoolwork.
I’m not perfect at this; professionals would likely do a lot of it better. I want to raise smart, upstanding, balanced citizens of America, and I agree it takes a village to do it best.
But I want for them what the public school system can not provide.
I want to raise men who can check the boxes, but aren’t defined by them.
I want to raise men who know their feelings, but aren’t owned by them.
I want to raise men who understand their place in society doesn’t identify who they truly are.
I want to raise men to be beacons in their own generation. Even if they stand alone.
I want to raise men who can think.
This year highlights the lack in public education. It cannot parent our kids, and we have expected it to do just that. School only teaches what the acceptable answer is, it isn't capable of teaching the process of reaching it - or that a tantrum isn't the acceptable way of disagreeing with it. Suing is. (Just kidding.)
I know, I sound stodgy, waggling my finger at the youngsters loitering on the street corner. Don't worry, I'm not. (Kids are only allowed to loiter on street corners if they're protesting; they rest are all at home staring at screens.) I'm invested in the education system, having taken it upon myself for at least 7 of the future voters of America. It doesn't look like it could. I want better for the country my children will inherit.
More than that, I'm thankful that education IS a priority in this country, and I hope this topsy turvy year is part of the shakeup that the school system needs.
I'm glad that homeschooling has only grown more popular this year, and that parents have to be more in tune with what their offspring are learning.
I am able to access a wealth of information, and take a vested interest in learning right along with my people how to handle it. Historical documents, public access to medical studies in peer reviewed journals, classics and cutting edge literature are all at our fingertips.
I want my nation to have the instructional platform the first settlers left their first home to build. This year, perhaps more young people have had to question the platitudes and pat answers they've been fed during the complacent years. This year, perhaps more reassessment than has happened in a century will shake the crumbling infrastructure that so desperately needs an overhaul.
This year, perhaps I appreciate my own as well as my children's access to education more than I ever did. It's not free just because it's available to the public. It's costly - certainly my own time costs me an extra income, lots of late nights studying to keep ahead of my kids, seemingly endless books and materials, and certainly it costs me sanity and a clean house.
But I get to snuggle with my people on the couch on snowy days to read history. I get to see the light dawn when a child grasps enough phonics to put words together. I learn something new everyday. I get to stay up too late discussing politics with my teenagers. I get to wake up and enjoy my coffee while we practice multiplication tables. And I get to watch the next generation of teachers learn to think.
So today, I am thankful for education.